Arts & Culture

Notebook Recollections: Walk This Way

Local icon Tim Rumsey walked to work most days from 1987 to 2000. He began as a form of exercise but kept at it for his love of local lore harvested through his interactions with people on the street. He began documenting his musings and eventually filled 53 pocketbooks with his observations. He continues writing about his observations to this day. Here is just one tale.
By tim rumsey, md
April 15, 1999  
It’s not spring in West 7th until Mr. Positive flips the switch. Snow shovels back in the garage and lawn chairs and hibachis out front herald the transition, but it’s the first pull on Carl’s Lawn Boy that sounds the change-of-season bell. Then and only then does the sap drip, birds chirp and a winter’s worth of sidewalk trash comes out of hibernation. 
Today was that day.

April 17, 1999  
Johnny Paul of FamilyStyle Homes and Daisy Carlson, housing manager, were in an exam room together. Johnny was Daisy’s “adopted son,” after his mother’s passing last year. This was actually Daisy’s visit –- stage four breast cancer. 
“Which one of you is the patient?” I joked.
Johnny pointed to Daisy so fast, he looked like a kindergartner during a school physical passing a shot off to a sibling. 
Nurse Aleda warned me that Daisy continued to fade. I was just glad to see her up and around. I had to ask all the tough questions. Wills., Aadvance directives. If she wanted to die at home. 
Johnny watched every word pass between Daisy and me. 

April 23, 1999
Johnny P. Solo visit. Follow-up on elevated blood pressure and psych meds.
Johnny asked me if I was Daisy’s actual doctor? 
I said I couldn’t really answer that.
“She told me you were,” he said.
“Well, yes then.”
“Is something bad happening to her?”
“Can’t answer that one,” I said.
“You were Miss Mary Pesek’s doctor.”
“She died,” Johnny said.
No need to answer there.
“And Mr. Ed Koci . . . “
“Yes,” I interrupted. “He died too.”
“And they all lived on Michigan Street, like Miss Daisy Bennett.”
It was clear where Johnny was going. 
Suddenly J.P. stood up. “I would like to see Aleda now! he demanded. “ I want Miss Daisy Bennett to change to Dr. Ravi. And, me too.”

April 24, 1999 
West 7th all-star cab driver, William Texan Dubois, told me the Omaha Railroad Shops were “going to go down this week.”
Johnny Paul loved trains. A good thing. His FamilyStyle cottage was 30 yards away from the very active Union Pacific tracks. His walls shook with each passing; sometimes up to five times a day.His place was one block from
the Omaha Shops.
For 68 years, a lot of Czech men worked the Omaha Railroad Shops at Randolph and Drake, until they closed in 1960. Ed Koci’s father and uncle. Mary Pesek’s male cousins. The Germans had Schmidt’s Brewery. The Irish, police and fire and local politics. And, Ancker Hospital employed men and women of all ethnicities.
The Czechs were the railroad coopers, railcar makers, blacksmiths and steam engine mechanics. Formerly, the place was known as Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad Company Randolph Street Engine Facility. To everyone else on West 7th, the place was just the Omaha Shops.
The 1892 buildings tell the whole story. The place was a railroad factory . Coal shed, sand house, water tower. Paint shop, tin shop, brass foundry. Carpenter shop, machine shop. Tool room, power plant. Boiler shop, blacksmith shop. Spring house. Oil house. And of course, the roundhouse, the steam engines’ intensive care unit. 
Over the years there were railroad mergers and buyouts as is the nature of the railroad world. But no one was quite ready for the out-and-out closing of the Omaha Shops in 1960. 
Frank Heller once told me West 7th’s  three big employers – Schmidt, Ancker and the Omaha Shops–were just blocks apart. When the Omaha Shops’ noon whistle blew, workers at all three sites went home for lunch. 
The Brass Foundry is the only Omaha Shops building still standing in 2023. It is one-story, stately, and has nice yellow stone masonry .It’s currently on the real estate market.

April 27, 1999  
Today is the day the Omaha Shops Round House is being demolished. I don’t want to know anymore. I don’t want to watch. 
 I kept busy in the clinic.
Tex phoned me, instructing me to meet him in front of Mancini’s, for a specimen,” he said.
I walked up to his open driver-side cab window… Suddenly, an orange cloud of dust brushed over us.
“What was that,” I asked.
“The Omaha Shops Roundhouse,” Tex said then blew his nose. “It’s being pulverized right now.”
Tex handed me a lukewarm, isosceles triangle of pepperoni pizza. It had a dusty covering. Tex remarked “It just has more minerals now.” He grabbed a piece for himself, and we raised them together, saluting the Omaha Shops.

April 28, 1999 
This morning I saw Johnny Paul walking down 7th in my direction. Dang! I wasn’t in the mood to hear another inventory of patients I did in. 
Too late. We were face-to-face. 
“Doctor, how many children do you have?” 
“Excuse me?”
“How big is your family?” 
“My wife, me and our three daughters.”
“I only have four pieces of gum,” Johnny said as he pulled out an open pack of Juicy Fruit and gave it to me. “If you break one in half, there will be enough for all five of you.”

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